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Lessons From Anna

• Greg Boyd

Anna was a woman that God used to speak to the people about Jesus the Messiah. It is significant that scripture records in this verse and in other parts of scripture that a woman was given a word of prophecy that was for all people (not only other women). The issue of women in church leadership is one that is debated in evangelical circles. However, scripture demands we look more closely at what it says about women leading in the church.

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Anna was a woman that God used to speak to the people about Jesus the Messiah. It is significant that scripture records in this verse and in other parts of scripture that a woman was given a word of prophecy that was for all people (not only other women). The issue of women in church leadership is one that is debated in evangelical circles. However, scripture demands we look more closely at what it says about women leading in the church.

The view that states that women cannot be in leadership in a church context is drawn mainly from 1 Timothy 2:9-13. This section of scripture includes five prohibitions given by Paul for the women of the church in Ephesus. The prohibitions include women being forbidden to wear braided hair and jewelry, as well as expensive clothes. Included in this section of scripture women are forbidden to teach or have authority over a man. In the time this letter was written these things were culturally significant in a way that they are no longer considered significant. For example, modern society does not assume a woman is immodest if she braids her hair. The timeless principle is that women should dress modestly, however the particulars are different because we live in a different culture than the early church of Ephesus. This principle also applies in regard to women in authority in the church. Due to the pagan religions in Ephesus in Paul’s day this prohibition was necessary to distinguish Christianity from other religions. However, that cultural context is no longer applicable to the church today.

Another thing to consider is that many women are described as having authoritative roles, over men and women in the Bible. Deborah (Judges 5), Anna (Luke 2:38), Isaiah’s wife (Isa. 8:3), Aquilla and Pricilla (Acts 18:26) and others to name a few. Women were not only recorded as being prophets but also judges and apostles (Rom. 16:7).

The cultural restriction of women in leadership roles is not a timeless principle. This restriction denies women who are called into leadership from fulfilling their unique role in God’s kingdom. Also, women not being allowed in leadership denies the church from the benefit of half of its leaders, pastors, visionaries, prophets and so on. Men and women are different but together in leadership they can compliment one another by bringing out different characteristics of God’s character. Not all women, just as not all men, are called into leadership roles in the church. Each person should follow their personal calling. However, women can be free to follow God’s call into roles of leadership if God chooses to gift, equip and call them into that role.

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Topics: Controversial Issues, Role of Women


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Focus Scripture:

  • Luke 2:36-39

    There was also a prophet, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was very old; she had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, and then had been a widow for eighty-four years. She never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying. Coming up to them at that very moment, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem.

    When Joseph and Mary had done everything required by the Law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee to their own town of Nazareth.

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